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Internet shutdowns in UP and West Bengal

Over the past few days, Internet services were suspended in West Bengal’s Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency and in Khair tehsil of Uttar Pradesh’s Tappal district. In West Bengal’s North 24 Paraganas district, three political workers from the BJP and Trinamool Congress were killed in a clash between the two parties. Internet was suspended in the Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency after graphic images of those killed were circulated on social media, per Business Standard. In UP, internet services were suspended in Khair tehsil on June 10 (until midnight) after fake video clips claiming to show the murder of a two-year-old girl were found circulating online. The posts were reportedly likely to inflame communal tensions.

Shutdowns in UP: UP has seen a total of 14 known shutdowns since 2014. In February 2019, internet was shut down as a precautionary measure in Aligarh after an altercation between some students and TV channel crew at Aligarh Muslim University.

Shutdowns in West Bengal: West Bengal has suspended internet services six known times since 2014. In April 2019, the West Burdwan district administration suspended internet services in the Asansol subdivision to prevent rumours on social media following violence in Barakar.

India’s rules on internet shutdowns

Internet shutdowns in India are governed by a set of rules published by the DoT in 2017, which replaced the even more arbitrary procedure of enforcement through orders issued by a District Magistrate. The current rules still enable the imposition of an internet shutdown through executive orders, but these may only be issued by a secretary to the central or state government and are subject to review by a central government committee.

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